Scientists have an impact on nearly every part of our lives, from our medicine to our food packaging to our growing understanding of our place in the universe. Science can also be a source of inspiration and even spirituality for many people. One of science’s most wonderful and, at times, confounding qualities is that it’s constantly evolving, like a vast detective hunt in which the mystery has no known end.
Humans have been observing and experimenting with the world around us since the beginning of history, from early hunting and planting strategies, to mathematical and astronomical theories, right up to our exploration of Mars and genetic engineering. From astronomers to physicists, scientists devote their life to questioning and exploration, sharing their results with other experts and the public as they go. As the 10 quotes below reveal, many scientists engage the most fundamental and perplexing aspects of our universe. They grapple with life’s most challenging questions, such as the purpose of human existence, the role of faith, and the essence of love.
There is too much tendency to making separate and independent bundles of both the physical and the moral facts of the universe. Whereas, all and everything is naturally related and interconnected.
— Ada Lovelace
Ada Lovelace was a 19th-century English mathematician now known as the mother of computer programming. She wrote the first algorithm intended for a computing machine to carry out, and worked with mathematician Charles Babbage on the Analytical Engine, one of the world’s first computers.
Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality… Never lose a holy curiosity.
— Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein is famous for his creative and intrepid theories on time, space, light, and other fundamental aspects of the universe. He is known for working out his propositions completely in his mind before communicating them to others, and many of his complex and visionary ideas could only be proven or disproven years later. He often spoke of his fierce love of learning and of the importance of imagination in scientific pursuits.
I just have something inside me that tells me that there is a problem, and I have got to do something about it. I think that is what I would call the God in me.
— Wangari Maathai
Wangari Maathai was a Kenyan biologist and environmental activist who founded the Green Belt movement, an ongoing effort to engage women in rural areas to plant trees across Kenya, and promote environmental conservation. She was the first woman in East or Central Africa to earn a doctorate, served as an assistant minister in Kenya’s parliament, and won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.
Man, far from being the overlord of all creation, is himself part of nature, subject to the same cosmic forces that control all other life. Man’s future welfare and probably even his survival depend upon his learning to live in harmony, rather than in combat, with these forces.
— Rachel Carson
Rachel Carson was a 20th-century American marine biologist, environmentalist, and author, well known for her 1962 book Silent Spring, which introduced the public to the dangerous environmental effects of pesticides and fertilizers. The book spurred greater public awareness of the hazards of the chemicals and inspired President John F. Kennedy to call for a government inquiry into these topics, leading to a report that largely validated her findings.
The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.
— Isaac Asimov
Isaac Asimov was a 20th-century American biochemist and author. He wrote close to 500 books in science fiction and other genres, including I, Robot, and The Foundation Trilogy.
Once I got into space, I was feeling very comfortable in the universe. I felt like I had a right to be anywhere in this universe; that I belonged here as much as any speck of stardust; any comet, any planet.
— Mae Carol Jemison
Mae Carol Jemison is an American physician, engineer, and NASA astronaut. In 1992, aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour, she became the first Black woman to travel in space. She also served as the principal of the 100 Year Starship organization, which aims to take humans outside of our solar system within the next century.
You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him discover it in himself.
— Galileo Galilei
Born in 1564, Galileo Galilei was an Italian astronomer, physicist, and philosopher, known for popularizing the telescope and making many important planetary discoveries. He was also persecuted for backing the then-controversial Copernican theory that the sun is the center of the solar system.
Only if we understand can we care. Only if we care will we help. Only if we help shall they be saved.
— Jane Goodall
Jane Goodall is an English primatologist and anthropologist, and a UN Messenger of Peace. She carried out 45 years of immersive, breakthrough studies of the chimpanzees in Tanzania by closely immersing herself in their social circles. She also founded the Jane Goodall Institute, through which she continues to carry out and support environmental advocacy.
Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.
— Marie Curie
Marie Curie was a scientist who was born in 1867 in Poland. Her studies with her husband Pierre led to the discovery of radium and polonium, and the development of X-rays. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize (in physics in 1903) and, with her Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1911, she became the first person to win two Nobel Prizes.
One, remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Two, never give up work. Work gives you meaning and purpose, and life is empty without it. Three, if you are lucky enough to find love, remember it is there and don’t throw it away.
— Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking was an influential British scientist, professor, and author. He taught at Cambridge and wrote 15 books on the topics of space, time, relativity, and black holes, including his best-known book A Brief History of Time. He was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) at age 21, which led him to use a wheelchair and speech synthesizer, allowing him to continue his research. Hawking’s life story was the inspiration for the 2014 film, The Theory of Everything.